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Thursday, December 29, 2005

1.22 --- Wong's Lost and Found Emporium

Directed by : Paul Lynch
Written by : Alan Brennert (story by William F. Wu)
Starring : Brian Tochi, Anna Marja Poon
First aired : 22nd of November, 1985.

David Wong (Brian Tochi, Revenge of the Nerds, Police Academy 3 & 4), a young Asian American, has spent three years looking for a mysterious place called "The Lost and Found Emporium". He finally tracks it down in a backroom of a sleazy San Francisco porn shop, but once inside, he finds that the place has no owner or any staff.

Browsing around, David runs across an elderly woman, who is looking for lost time. He is positively not interested in her story, but suddenly, he sees an orb of light which is trying to point him something. Following the orb, which the woman does not see, he finds a cage with mice with instructions to rub them until they calm down. Believing that this is her chance to win back her lost time, the woman tries to do so, but mice scatter away before she manages to do it. She breaks down in tears, with David just condescendingly quipping "them's the breaks" and walking away.

The next person David meets is an elderly man, who came to the emporium by accident. He eventually admits he lost the respect of his children, and David grudgingly points him (with help of the orb) to a mirror, which he should look at for no less than five and a half minutes. The man begins this procedure, but is disgusted by what he sees - a distorted, monstrous image of him. Unable to control himself, he crashes the mirror, then realizes what he has done. And just like with the old woman, David just shakes his head and leaves.

As he's walking away from the man, David is confronted by Melinda (Anna Marja Poon), who scolds him for his lack of compassion. David admits that it is his compassion he's after, explaining how he lost it years ago due to racial intolerance he encountered in his life. Melinda offers him a deal - she will find his compassion if she finds her lost item, which she won't reveal. David agrees, and follows the orb to an old thermos, which releases a stream of vapour. After inhaling the vapour, Melinda can't stop giggling - she got her sense of humour back. She then points David to his lost belonging, in shape of three flasks, with one containing his compassion.

Unable to choose, David grabs the two biggest one and crashes them, and gains his integrity and childhood memories back. But the third flask - a small white test tube - rolls away from him, and is lost for good. David is visibly unhappy, but soon, he realizes he did gain a lot back, and that compassion came along with it to some extent. Feeling like a man reborn, David realizes it his destiny to help other unfortunate souls find what they're looking for, and Melinda stays with him as his assistant. They start off with the ones who had their chance - the elderly man and woman - as even lost chances can be recovered.

***

Based on a short story by William F. Wu, Wong's Lost and Found Emporium is an original, charming tale of second chances, well worthy of bearing the Twilight Zone insignia on its sleeve. Boasting probably the best special effects TZ has seen so far, WLaFE is also benefiting strongly from Tochi's performance, who despite his comedic background comes off like a real douchebag, and is really hard to like prior to his salvation moment.

When I saw this in my early teens, I was thoroughly disappointed, as the episode lacked monsters, twists and whatnot. But now, more than a decade later, I am able to understand and appreciate the full value of this piece...after all, I'm certain everyone of us would like to retrieve something from Wong's emporium.

Comments on "1.22 --- Wong's Lost and Found Emporium"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:33 PM) : 

I am not Asian American, but I'm a fan of finding ethnic science fiction or fantasy in literature and cinema. I fondly remember this episode from my childhood, and remembered it as sad for some reason. I am also a fan of the curio shop stories of fantasy literature and film, most famous is a series called "Friday the 13th: The Series" which I feel was a ripoff of this episode. And now that I hear from the commentary that they did try to develop this as a series later on, watching it in hindsight feels very much like a pilot even though it wasn't intentional like the Carol Burnett episode of the old TZ.

 

Blogger Tim said ... (5:39 AM) : 

This is a peculiar episode. The first two segments seem like they're fairly clear parodies of familiar Twilight Zone tropes, with Wong as the outside observer making remarks like "not another sob story." Then it makes a peculiar 90-degree turn into the deadly serious by discussing the real-life death of Vincent Chin, a victim of attacks motivated by anti-Japanese racism. Then it suddenly makes a turn back toward the light-hearted with Melinda's rediscovery of her sense of humor amid copious quantities of (frankly) pretty suspicious smoke. Finally it ends with an uplifting "the truth was inside you the entire time" note. I like the episode altogether, but the tone is really erratic.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:18 AM) : 

I first saw this on Australian TV in the mid 80's, while curled up on the couch, eating a savoury croissant. This segment appealed to me on a number of different levels: a mysterious interdimensional repository of all things lost; the notion that qualities and memories like compassion and lost time can not only be lost but regained, and about finding where we are supposed to be in life. I was only about 10 or 11 at the time, and played at having my own Lost and Found Emporium. I watched it many times on videotape that year until it was recorded over, and I've looked for it ever since then.

I'm watching it now in October 2010, for the first time in many, many years. In its own warming sense of finding what was lost, I'm now listening to the final narration and remembering sitting on that couch all over again, being in my early teens and thinking of a time in the future when I'll be looking back with fondness, now.

 

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